A Comprehensive Approach to Discipline – Part III: Eliminate Negative Behavior

Even within the confines of a supporting and loving relationship with adequate positive reinforcement, undesirable behavior can still occur.  When it does, it must be dealt with consistently and effectively. 

Of all of the consequences that can be applied when negative behaviors appear, the most important aspect of any plan must use consistency as its foundation. If children are not sure that they will face a consequence for misbehaving, they could be tempted to “roll the dice” and see what happens. It is only when they are sure that the first time and every time they show the behavior that they will face a consequence will your disciplinary plan have any meaning.

The definition of consistency is firmness, sticking to the same rule. That means you must enforce a rule from the moment it is put in place and every time thereafter.  Failure to do so will undermine your own authority.  If you don’t stick to the rule, why should your child?  If you don’t believe what you are saying, why should your child believe?

It is important to avoid making empty threats when in a disciplinary situation. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you don’t mean what you say, your words will become meaningless to your child and they will stop listening to you.  Avoid putting punishments into place that you cannot stick to or enforce. Doing so will undermine your own authority.

Parents generally have three ways to respond when their child misbehaves:

  1. Immediate reaction: This reaction is necessary when danger exists or harm may come to your child by waiting.
  2. Delayed reaction: This reaction is necessary when emotions are high and you are unable to deal effectively with the situation.  In these instances, count to 20, take a deep breath, walk away, or take whatever stress reduction measures that work for you. It is dangerous for you and your child to deal with some situations when your emotions are out of control. It is best for all concerned if you take some time to calm down before escalating a situation beyond your control.
  3. Application of consistent consequences to stop the behavior and keep it from mushrooming into other negative behaviors.  This is the most common type of disciplinary action. Consistent consequences are necessary because undesirable behavior is not always a one time occurrence.  Children may test your limits by repeating the behavior.  It is only when met with consistent consequences will the behavior stop.

It is important to remember that it is not the severity of the discipline you use which makes it effective, but the certainty of discipline that matters.

Above all, remember CONSISTENCY IS KEY.

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A Comprehensive Approach to Discipline – Part III: Eliminate Negative Behavior